Inmates at a minimum security prison in Lincoln, Neb., are volunteering time while doing time. Several of them have partnered with Northern Lighthouse Christian Reformed Church to form Charity Autos, a car repair service for people who can’t afford repairs elsewhere.
Steven Oliver loves helping people. On Saturdays he is one of seven or eight inmates who donate labor to repair cars for single moms, seniors, and people who have disabilities.
“It’s a good feeling to know that you have helped someone at the end of the day and got them on the road,” said Oliver.
He heard about the program while worshiping at Northern Lighthouse. “I feel like I am doing the Lord’s work through auto mechanics and also helping people who are in need,” he said.
Northern Lighthouse CRC was originally established as a typical church in a new housing development, according to ministry associate Jeff Heerspink. But a prisoner-release program brought inmates in to worship. When one prisoner expressed a wish for work to do, a car was repaired and a ministry was born.
“I think one of the most beautiful pieces of the Charity Autos program is there’s a number of people who show up and say, ‘I want nothing to do with church, but I can work on a car,’” said Heerspink. “And then they get to know some of the members of Lighthouse. The inmates find a loving, caring place. Then they say, ‘Well, I’ll come to church,’” he said. “A lot of them find Christ.”